Delgado Convenes Rural Broadband Field Hearing with FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks
HUDSON, NY—Today, Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) convened a Congressional Field Hearing with Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks titled, “Closing the Digital Divide: Connecting Rural Americans to Reliable Internet Service” on the need to expand rural broadband access and affordability in upstate New York. The hearing featured testimony from members of the community; including a small business owner, medical provider, school official, broadband advocate, electrical co-op, and local internet service provider. The conversations and questioning focused on lack of access to sufficient or accurate broadband mapping and data.
Watch a livestream of today's hearing here.
"I want to open with an observation. As you will notice—there is no service in this auditorium," Rep. Delgado opened the hearing. "This is unfortunately the rule—not the exception—here in the twin counties, and all across upstate and New York’s 19th Congressional District. Small businesses, families, schools, and health care providers in upstate suffer daily from lack of consistent access to high-speed broadband services. This is due in large part to lack of investment in broadband infrastructure. Broadband services should not be treated as a luxury—but as a basic utility and essential for our communities."
"The headline for me is that we need to treat broadband like we did rural electricity back in the 1930s. There, we executed with a clear and simple goal in mind: we must connect all Americans. When Americans have the will, we find the way.” said FCC Commissioner Geoffrey Starks during his opening remarks. “The longer communities exist without adequate access to broadband, the more we will see it effect the fabric of America -- our economy, our democracy, and the individual dignity of those who live outside of the most connected communities.”
“Let me define True Broadband in 2019 terms—a minimum of a symmetrical 100 Mbits/sec growing to a symmetrical 1 gigabit within five years. The Commission’s definition is considerably out of date and needs to be upgraded immediately. Many of our international competitors are already at the gigabit level.” David Berman, Co-Chair of Connect Columbia continued, “the only solution to this issue is to base local, state and federal programs on the goal of reaching every address in the United States. That means scrapping the use of census blocks to define coverage, availability, financing, etc.”
"There are 3 broad areas where the impact of broadband is felt in the delivery of health care – it impacts the patient, the location and types of services available in a facility and has a sometimes-unrecognized effect on our workforce" said Clifford Belden, a physician and the Chief Medical Officer at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Hudson. "Reliable internet access is a requirement for the efficient delivery of health care in the rural environment. The lack of broadband access has a negative impact on patients, their communities and the people who provide care."
Testimony from Shannon Hayes, a small business owner in Schoharie focused on the lack of broadband holding back her production markets, "we had to make a choice about the future of our farm: buy more land to increase production, or guarantee our telecommunications. Without good telecommunications, we would lose marketing opportunities.” The conversation also largely focused on the fact that lack of broadband held back economic development in rural communities. Brian P. Dunn of Middleburgh's testimony began, “as a Superintendent of a rural school district, I am sure it is not surprising that I am going to state that having affordable and reliable broadband access is important and critical in today’s learning environment. As a Superintendent of a rural school district it is even more important and critical to close the achievement gap, break cycles of poverty and make sure that all students have equitable access to high quality learning opportunities with integrated technology."
Tim Johnson, Chief Executive Officer of Otsego Electric Cooperative and OEConnect focused on the value of rural electric Co-Ops in providing broadband to rural communities through public private partnerships, "Rural electric cooperatives are uniquely suited to partner with the government for these projects because of the existing infrastructure we have in place throughout our service areas."
Jason Miller, General Manager Delhi Telephone Company, discussed the importance of addressing flawed broadband mapping, and the need to accessible and affordable broadband. “Robust broadband must be available, affordable, and sustainable for rural small businesses and underserved populations to realize the economic, healthcare, education, and public safety benefits that advanced connectivity offers.”